What does success as an artist mean to you?
Is it millions of streams, playing sold out shows, earning enough money to live off, or just improving the life of another person out there with a piece of art that you created?
This may not seem like an important consideration early on, but asking yourself this question early on will help you make the right marketing decisions to ensure your music career aligns with your personal values.
Understanding the path you want to go down and the type of artist you want to be is so important, and it will impact so many opportunities down the line. When you look at the different directions your career can take it starts to make more sense how much of a role this plays.
Touring, commercial partnerships, fan loyalty, the length of your career, future business endeavors are all influenced by the brand that you build.
So I’ve put together a few main questions to help you shape this vision.
Introvert vs extrovert?
Do you enjoy the spotlight? What sort of connection do you want with fans?
Are you happy sharing elements of your life publicly or is that something you would shy away from?
This will shape the content you create, what you put on your social media and your whole persona. Extroverts can do well sharing the intimate aspects of their lives, whereas the more introverted may want to focus more on the culture or scene of the genre they are in.
For those who really want to avoid the limelight there are plenty of artists who have done this successfully while still building large fanbases.
Are you happy being on the road?
Do you want to do live shows? How often do you want to travel away, and do you want to be on the road a lot?
For a lot of musicians touring and live shows are one of the main ways they can make an income. But it takes a lot of time and effort and for some this may not be a lifestyle they want.
This will affect decisions on how you make an income – can your streaming royalties sustain you, can you monetise your fanbase in other ways?
supplement Your income or make this a full time job?
Do you have an established career outside of music that you want to continue with? Being a musician is not a career that’s known for the security it provides over the long term.
Many artists and industry professionals balance multiple forms of income streams, and there’s something to be said for being aware of the realities of the financial strains of trying to earn a full time living from music.
Are you concerned about brand partnerships?
Brand partnerships can be extremely lucrative, but they are very much dependent on your brand as an artist.
Some artists exclude themselves from any opportunity for brand partnership through the art they produce. Controversial lyrics, public statements or activities can influence opportunities for partnerships down the line.
How long do you plan on doing this for?
Everything changes, the culture changes, trends come and go. Are you going to keep the same fanbase for years or are you going to pivot to new things.
If you plan on being in the game for the long haul you need to be aware of how you are going to adapt. Don’t build your brand on a fad – you can get pigeonholed and find it hard to move on. Sure there are countless examples of artists who manage to reinvent themselves, but there are more examples of artists who weren’t able to.
Do you want full control of your creative output?
How much would you be willing to compromise on your output if it meant increased exposure?
Record labels will help promote you and get you heard, but oftentimes you will be giving up a degree of control over your art and how this is used.
Are you ok with this external pressure? Or would you prefer to have complete control over your output?
Also consider how you might want to interact with new technology in the future. Artists that have full control over their copyrights will have an easier time being able to navigate the waters of emerging technologies. We have already seen examples of ownership disputes with the likes of music NFTs and music AI – multiple ownership adds another level of complexity to these processes and any other technologies that are likely to emerge in the future.
Choose What’s Right For You
These are just some examples of the sort of questions that will help you shape a career that aligns with you as an individual or group.
This shouldn’t be seen as a one time process but rather an exercise that you regularly return to to ensure you’re on the right track.
The measures of success will change over time as you grow and develop as an artist. The most important thing to be sure of is that you define success by what matters to you, and don’t get influenced by what other people’s definition of success is.